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Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise

Workshop participants examining forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms

Workshop participants examine forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)

Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.

According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.

With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests. Read more »

Future of Agriculture: Creating Change from the Ground Up

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour.

The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture – women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need.

That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed. Read more »

Understanding AMS’ Withdrawal of Two Voluntary Marketing Claim Standards

Cattle grazing with clouds behind them

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef.

Last week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that effective January 12, 2016, the agency withdrew two voluntary marketing claim standards – the Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard and the Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard. The Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard has never been used by anyone.  What does the announcement really mean to grass-fed beef producers and consumers?  The honest answer is nothing.

Consumers and beef producers alike can be assured, AMS still strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef. Read more »

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

Students in the STEP UP program taking part in a short course in environmental soil science

Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »

Counting All Farmers – Capturing the Many Faces of Agriculture in the 2017 Census

Female farm operators infographic

The 2012 Census of Agriculture found that 14 percent of the nation’s farms are run by a woman.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture is still two years away but, at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we work hard to continually improve the data we collect. The agriculture census conducted every five years is the one time we collect demographic information on today’s farmers and ranchers.

The 2012 Census found that 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms are run by a woman, and women make up 30 percent of all farmers when up to three operators per farm are included. Similarly, 25 percent of farmers were beginning farmers (ten years or less on their current farm) in 2012. But, as we get ready for the next census, we want to make sure that our data fully capture the role of women farmers and beginning farmers in agriculture today. Read more »

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock Coming Soon to a Pocket near You

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock on the United States Mint's new America the Beautiful Quarter

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock is as depicted on the United States Mint’s new America the Beautiful Quarter.

When hiking through amazing sandstone rock formations in the U.S. Forest Service’s Shawnee National Forest, in Illinois, one particular formation inevitably catches your attention, a camel stoically perched overlooking a spectacular landscape. It is this striking image, called Camel Rock, that was selected to represent the Shawnee National Forest on the newest America the Beautiful Quarter.

Started in 2010, each year the United States Mint issues a quarter with the reverse (tails) side depicting a national site or park. The Shawnee is one of only five national forests to be recognized in the program. Read more »